While this was never really an accurate image of bluegrass, it's even more absurd in current music. Acts like New Grass Revival, Alison Kraus and Union Station, Nickel Creek and the Avett Brothers have modernized the form in a variety of ways in recent decades.
In particular, acts like Krauss, Nickel Creek's Sara Watkins and Uncle Earl have done much to prove what amazing female vocalists are part of this genre. These are beautiful women with angelic voices. Listeners who can't get over the fact that the music is made with banjos, mandolins and fiddles are really missing out.
After the release of her debut "Song Up In Her Head" in 2009, 19-year-old Sarah Jarosz can be added to this list. With a repertoire that includes mandolin, banjo, guitar and one heck of a beautiful voice, this woman is truly an exciting young artist to hear.
But for those who remain doubters, Jarosz will release a nice intro, "The New 45," a two-song EP on Tuesday as a digital download. Later in November, it will also be available in limited-edition vinyl pressings. (That's right, "The New 45" will be an actual 45.)
The EP actually nicely serves both existing Jarosz fans and those wanting just a taste of her music. The album kicks off with the slow, dreamy "My Muse." It's a good taste of her songwriting for newbies. For existing fans, it's a track that will be on her upcoming sophomore full-length album.
The song takes her music in a slightly different direction, modernizing the more traditional style of "Song Up In Her Head."
The second track is more traditional in its sound, but not in origin. "Grandma's Hands" is a cover of Bill Withers' soul classic. It's a shining example of how a good bluegrass tune doesn't have to be a bluegrass tune at all.
The real value of "The New 45" is as a preview. It's either a preview of the next Jarosz album, due out next spring, or simply as an intro to her music. For those who like what they hear, "Song Up In Her Head" holds even more gems from this wonderful, young voice.
My spin: B+
A two-song release isn't easy to judge, but Jarosz is batting 2-for-2 on this one. "The New 45" gives listeners just a taste of her abilities as a songwriter, instrumentalist, singer and arranger. It's one to be checked out by fans and new listeners alike.